The Privacy Bounds of Human Mobility



We used 15 months of data from 1.5 million people to show that four points--approximate places and times--are enough to identify 95 percent of individuals in a mobility database. Our work shows that human behavior puts fundamental natural constraints on the privacy of individuals, and these constraints hold even when the resolution of the dataset is low. These results demonstrate that even coarse datasets provide little anonymity. We further developed a formula to estimate the uniqueness of human mobility traces. These findings have important implications for the design of frameworks and institutions dedicated to protecting the privacy of individuals.